Is a landowner responsible for injuries to a horse kept on their land? Various examples include; death to the horse caused by indigestion of contaminated land or contamination of haylage fed to the horses.
In short the responsibility for the horse depends on the type of livery agreement you have put in place.
In a full livery agreement, the yard owner is primarily responsible for the daily care of the horse. Services vary but tend to include feeding, turnout to grazing and bringing in. The yard usually provides feed, hay and bedding. Therefore, the yard must ensure that they are providing good quality food and grazing.
In comparison to a full livery agreement, if a part livery agreement is put in place, then the responsibility is shared between both the yard owner and the horse owner.
If there is a DIY livery agreement in place, then the yard owner only provides stabling and a field or paddock for turnout to grazing. The horse owner is responsible for the daily care of the horse including feeding. The main responsibilities for the horse owner include; providing feed, hay and bedding, although the yard usually has storage facilities. As a consequence, it is possible that the horse owner is responsible for providing feed and may have supplied contaminated haylage, unless it could be argued otherwise that it was contaminated on site.
Another area to look at is if there was a possible offence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Section 3 sets out the basis of responsibility for the animal, stating that whilst the owner is always responsible, the person who is in charge of the animal, even if this is only temporary, can also be responsible. However, as outlined above, this varies according to the type and wording of the livery agreement. The person who is responsible for the horse could also potentially be guilty of offenses under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 4(2), if they act or fail to act to prevent the horse from suffering. Section 9 also imposes a duty to provide a safe environment.
Consequently, the horse owner needs to prove that the landowner is negligent in carrying out their duties. Such negligence includes contamination coming from Ragwort growing in grazing fields. The landowner should have known that the presence of this weed could harm if indigested and should have inspected the field.
However, it must also be taken into account whether or not the contamination was foreseeable and if it was reasonable for the landowner to be aware of this contamination.
For example, if the contamination was caused by a freak flooding upstream which lead to contamination occurring unexpectedly then the burden of proof rests on the claimant to prove that the landowner was at fault.
For further information on equine law, please contact Frank Smith on 01242 801748 or visit us at http://www.franksmithandco.com/.